RCEP, including India, committed to conclude agreement by November : 13-09-2019

All members of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement, including India, have committed to conclude the trade agreement in full by November, a senior Australian trade negotiator has said. His statement comes amid other members of the grouping asking India about its decision to remain in it while certain government departments in the country oppose it.

Australia’s lead negotiator on the RCEP James Baxter also stressed that any deal will necessarily include all negotiating countries after discussions are completed on each issue. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had in June said the deal can be negotiated without India “for the time being”.

“In Bangkok, all ministers reiterated their commitment to conclude the negotiations in full by the time of the summit in November,” Baxter said. The RCEP secretariat had internally set up a date of November 4 to conclude the deal.

The seventh RCEP ministerial meeting took place in Bangkok on September 8, which was attended by commerce minister Piyush Goyal.

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Goyal on Wednesday said sooner the trade agreement is concluded with adequate protection for domestic industry, the better it is for India and that not all industries are opposed to the pact.

In July, India had said that the domestic industry is not convinced that RCEP will create a win-win situation for all.

INTENSE NEGOTIATIONS

The RCEP negotiations, in their final stages, are gathering pace and intense talks including 1.5 track dialogues are expected in the next few weeks. New Delhi will host the first such dialogue on Friday and technical discussions among government officials, experts and commentators of the RCEP members on September 14-15 wherein its proposed mechanism of ‘auto trigger and snapback’ to protect itself from sudden surges in imports from China would be taken up.

However, sources said India has neither tabled any list of sensitive items on which it wants a mechanism to check import surges nor has it suggested any specific review mechanism for the trade agreement to analyse its impact at a later stage. New Delhi has sought a review of its FTAs with Asean, Korea and Japan, all of whom are RCEP members.

“This is a new thing for India. It wants some assurance that imports from China will not flood its market. We have said we are happy to apply this on select sensitive products,” said an official of an RCEP member on the proposed import check methods.

As per the official, considerable progress is being made on tariff concessions and the RCEP grouping has taken a decision on the crucial investment chapter that talks of investor state dispute settlement, a key concern of India.

Source : PTI